“Terry Billings’ work sits in the charged space between knowledge and intuition. Her diverse practice, including video, mixed media and installation works, explores the contradictions between the established scientific understanding of biological life forms and her personal experience of the nonhuman world.
Her collaborative wasp drawings hinge on a delightful proposition—insects are creative, intelligent beings. Billings collects abandoned wasp nests, carefully removes sections from their paper construction, and transfers the delicate material onto canvas. She interprets the patterns and applies the material in a way that is “consistent with the wasps’ intent.” The resulting rhythmic, swirling compositions suggest an insect aesthetic consciousness that seems not entirely preposterous.
Reassembled Moult is comprised of sandhill crane feathers. Billings collected the feathers by the South Saskatchewan River, where the birds stop to rest, feed, and socialize on their annual migration route to Northern breeding areas. The birds preen in mud, and the iron content stains their typically grey plumage with brown washes of colour. Feathers are shed and replaced through the process of moulting. Billings reassembled her collection, conforming the feathers to the rectangular geometry of a picture frame. The work has an elegiac tone—so many muted feathers, beautiful, tinged with absence.”
From The names of things publication
Curated by Troy Gronsdahl, Associate Curator, Mendel Art Gallery
In contrast, Billing’s sculptural reliefs are delicate and vulnerable to touch, with draping feathers and wispy-edged paper. Playing with repetition and patterns, Revealed Wasp Drawings and Reassembled Moult integrate natural detritus with materials such as burlap and acrylic paint. These careful arrangements of plumage and wasp paper retain an essence of their derivative forms – and even their material purposes – but transcend into poetic maps or meanderings of natural wonders. The crane feathers in Reassembled Moult are a monument to the bird’s flapping wings and tail cape. Revealed Wasp Drawings, on the other hand, subdue a swarming, potentially dangerous mass into swirling topographical drawings that trace the nesting patterns of the formidable insect.
From THE NAMES OF THINGS By Lissa Robinson, Artwest, October 15, 2012